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Mining Project: Enhancing Mine Workers’ Abilities to Identify Hazards at Sand, Stone, and Gravel Mines

Principal Investigator
Start Date10/1/2014

To characterize sand, stone, and gravel mine workers’ ability to recognize worksite hazards and to understand how this ability relates to perceived and measured risk as well as to other factors internal and external to the sand, stone, and gravel mine worker.

Topic Area

Research Summary

Mining is a major undertaking that involves a variety of components including heavy machinery, complex equipment, and diverse worker activities, all of which take place in a dynamic, challenging environment. To work safely, miners must be able to identify work place hazards, know and understand the risks associated with these hazards, and then make the decision to mediate the hazards. The year 2013 saw an increase in the number of fatalities at metal/nonmetal mines relative to the previous two years and this number continued to be high in 2014.

To help to address these issues, this project has five research aims, as follows:

  1. Study the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) related to hazard recognition and risk perception, specifically whether there are differences in KSAs based on experience with sand, stone, and gravel (SSG) mining.
  2. Through work with subject matter experts (SMEs) and analyses of fatal and non-fatal MSHA data, identify hazards that are found at SSG mine sites. This aim was completed during fiscal year 2015. Panoramic pictures were taken at a surface limestone mine. These panoramic pictures include the identified worksite hazards.
  3. Collect quantitative data in order to measure how SSG mine workers visually search the worksite for hazards and to also measure the accuracy and speed with which worksite hazards that vary in level of perceived and objectively measured risk are identified. This aim was completed during fiscal year 2016. Additional qualitative data collection methods were included to probe identified and non-identified hazards. These data are necessary to further understand the hazard recognition process.
  4. Create a hazard recognition intervention to address cognitive concerns identified through the above research.
  5. Field test the hazard recognition intervention with SSG mining operation employees to determine the effectiveness of the related materials.

This project was designed to improve the understanding of the cognitive processes—such as visual search, risk perception, and risk tolerance—involved in successful hazard recognition for SSG mine workers. Initial testing took place in NIOSH laboratories. Experienced and novice SSG mine workers, SSG mine safety professionals, and mining students participated in the study. During data collection, participants were shown panoramic pictures of work locations that include a variety of hazards, then asked to identify the hazards. All participants were asked to wear eye tracking glasses to record where they were looking while searching the pictures for hazards. They were also asked to hold a button to press to indicate when a hazard was found. Following this task, participants performed a risk assessment for each of the hazards included in the pictures.

Results from this initial testing will be used to guide the development of an intervention that will be used to increase SSG mine workers KSAs related to hazard recognition and risk assessment Field testing at SSG mine sites will validate the quality of the intervention. The impact of the intervention will be evident through an increase in SSG mineworkers’ knowledge of mine site hazards and the risk associated with these hazards.